What’s New in vSphere 7.0 U2 Storage: Creating a File Repository on a vVol Datastore

This feature has many names. Creating a larger config vVol. Creating a sub-vVol datastore. Creating an ISO repository. Etc.

In 7.0U2, VMware added a new feature that supports creating a custom size config vVol–while this was technically possible in earlier releases, it was not supported. Also, I should note that this is not supported by all vVol vendors, so of course speak to your vendor first.

First to review what a config vVol is check out this post:

What is a Config VVol Anyways?

In short, it is a mini VMFS that gets created when you create a directory in a vVol datastore (most commonly created by creating a new VM). This defaults to 4 GB in size. Enough to store the general VM files; some logs, VMDK pointers, vmx file, and some other frivolities.

The issue though is that this was not large enough to store large things like ISOs or vib files or whatever. So if you tried to upload something to a vVol datastore folder it would fail with an out-of-space issue. And you cannot upload to the root of a vVol datastore because a vVol datastore is not a file system. So you had to use VMFS or NFS to store those objects.

This is no longer the case.

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Pure Storage Plugin for the vSphere Client 4.5.0 Release

Howdy doody folks. Lots of releases coming down the pipe in short order and the latest is well the latest release of the Pure Storage Plugin for the vSphere Client. This may be our last release of it in this architecture (though we may have one or so more depending on things) in favor of the new preferred client-side architecture that VMware released in 6.7. Details on that here if you are curious.

Anyways, what’s new in this plugin?

The release notes are here:

https://support.purestorage.com/Solutions/VMware_Platform_Guide/Release_Notes_for_VMware_Solutions/Release_Notes%3A_Pure_Storage_Plugin_for_the_vSphere_Client#4.5.0_Release_Notes

But in short, five things:

  1. Improved protection group import wizard. This feature pulls in FlashArray protection groups and converts them into vVol storage policies. This was, rudimentary at best previously, and is now a full-blown, much more flexible wizard.
  2. Native performance charts. Previously performance charts for datastores (where we showed FlashArray performance stats in the vSphere Client) was actually an iframe we pulled from our GUI. This was a poor decision. We have re-done this entirely from the ground up and now pull the stats from the REST API and draw them natively using the Clarity UI. Furthermore, there are now way more stats shown too.
  3. Datastore connectivity management. A few releases ago we added a feature to add an existing datastore to new compute, but it wasn’t particularly flexible and it wasn’t helpful if there were connectivity issues and didn’t provide good insight into what was already connected. We now have an entirely new page that focuses on this.
  4. Host management. This has been entirely revamped. Initially host management was laser focused on one use case: connecting a cluster to a new FlashArray. But no ability to add/remove a host or make adjustments. And like above, no good insight into current configuration. The host and cluster objects now have their own page with extensive controls.
  5. vVol Datastore Summary. This shows some basic information around the vVol datastore object

First off how do you install? The easiest method is PowerShell. See details (and other options) here:

https://support.purestorage.com/Solutions/VMware_Platform_Guide/User_Guides_for_VMware_Solutions/Using_the_Pure_Storage_Plugin_for_the_vSphere_Client/vSphere_Plugin_User_Guide%3A_Installing_the_vSphere_Plugin

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New vVol Replication PowerShell Cmdlets

Happy New Year everyone! Let’s work to make 2021 a better year.

In furtherance of that goal, I have put out a few new vVol-related PowerShell cmdlets! So baby steps I guess.

The following are the new cmdlets:

Basics:

  • Get-PfaVvolStorageArray

Replication:

  • Get-PfaVvolReplicationGroup
  • Get-PfaVvolReplicationGroupPartner
  • Get-PfaVvolFaultDomain

Storage Policy Management:

  • Build-PfaVvolStoragePolicyConfig
  • Edit-PfaVvolStoragePolicy
  • Get-PfaVvolStoragePolicy
  • New-PfaVvolStoragePolicy
  • Set-PfaVvolVmStoragePolicy

Now to walk through how to use them. This post will talk about the basics and the replication cmdlets. The next post will talk about the profile cmdlets.

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FlashArray HTML-5 vSphere Client Plugin VVol Support

Not long ago I posted about our initial release of our vSphere Plugin that supports the HTML-5 UI–the main problem though is that it did not yet support the VVol stuff we put in the original flash/flex based plugin.

So accordingly, the most common question I received was “when are you adding VVol support to this one?”. And my response was “Soon! We are working on it”.

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Generating the default VVol Storage Container ID

A VVol datastore, is not a file system, so it is not a traditional datastore. It is just a capacity quota. So when you “mount” a VVol datastore, you aren’t really performing a traditional mounting operation as there is no underlying physical storage to address during the mount. So instead of mounting some storage device, you are mounting what is called a storage container. This is the meta data object that represents the certain amount of capacity that can be provisioned from a given array. An array can have more than one storage containers, for reasons of multi-tenancy or whatever.

In a VMFS world, when you go to create a new datastore, you pass it the serial number of the storage you want to format with VMFS. You know that serial, because, well, you created the storage device. When you “mount” a VVol datastore, instead of a device serial, you supply the storage container UUID. It comes in the form of vvol:e0ad83893ead3681-b1b7f56a45ff64f1. Of course the characters will vary a bit.

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Mounting a VVol Datastore with PowerCLI

I’ve been making a lot of updates to my PowerShell module around VVols recently and this was the last “table stakes” cmdlet I wanted to add. There are certainly more to come, but now we definitely have the basics. In 1.2.2.1 release of the PowerShell module I added a cmdlet called Mount-PfaVvolDatastore.

As of today we support a single VVol datastore–though we are working on adding support for more than one.

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PowerCLI and VVols Part VII: Synchronizing a Replication Group

In this post, I will overview how to synchronize a VVol-based replication group with PowerCLI. See previous posts below for more context:

This post is somewhat specific to Pure Storage–the cmdlets of course are universal, but behaviors may not correlate to your storage array. So if you are using VVols on a non-Pure array, certainly consult your vendor.

Furthermore, this is certainly specific to PowerCLI when it comes to the commands. With that being said, the fundamentals on how this works with Pure is common for all orchestration tools, so you should be able to use this information for other tools. Though of course the cmds/syntax will be different.

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Updating a volume group name on the FlashArray for VVols

The FlashArray implementation of Virtual Volumes surfaces VMs on the FlashArray as standard volume groups. The volume group being named by the virtual machine name. Each VVol is then added and removed to the volume group as they are provisioned or deleted. These objects though are fairly flexible–we do not use the volume group as a unique identifier of the virtual machine–internally we use key/value tags for that.

The benefit of that design is that you can delete the volume groups, rename them, or add and remove other volumes to it. Giving you some flexibility to group related VMs or whatever your use case might be to move things around, without breaking our VVol implementation.

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PowerCLI and VVols Part V: Array Snapshots and VVols

Another post in my series on VVols and PowerCLI, for previous posts see these:

This post will be about managing one-off snapshots with VVols on the FlashArray with PowerCLI.

One of the still semi-valid reasons I have seen DBAs say “I dont want to virtualize because…” Is that they have simple snapshot/recovery scripts for their physical server that allows them to quickly restore DBs from snapshots. Doing this on VMFS requires A LOT of coordination with the VMware layer.

So they tell the VMware team–“okay I will virtualize but I want RDMs”. Well the VMware team says “well we’d rather die”

…and around in circles we go…

VVols provides the ability to provide this benefit (easy snapshot stuff) but still get the benefits of VMware stuff (vMotion, Storage vMotion, cloning, etc) without the downside of RDMs.

So let’s walk though that process.

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PowerCLI and VVols Part IV: Correlating a Windows NTFS to a VMDK

My last post in this series was about getting a VVol UUID and figuring out what volume on a FlashArray it is. But what about the step before that? If I have a guest OS file system how do I even figure out what VMDK it is?

There is a basic option, which can potentially be used, which is correlating the bus ID and the unit ID of the device in the guest and matching it to what VMware displays for the virtual disks.

But that always felt to me as somewhat inexact.  What if you accidentally look at the wrong VM object and then do something to a volume you do not mean to? Or the opposite?

Not ideal. Luckily there is a more exact approach. I will focus this particular post on Windows. I will look at Linux in an upcoming one.

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